The Kentish horsey honey rang the other night. Wonderfully reversing the status quo, she said: ‘I want Mr. Right Now, not Mr. Right. I’ll get it when I can.’ To set the quote off nicely, I include the chest of another woman entirely.
Anyway, I promised a little report on Dublin, so here it is: Just yards from the snarling traffic on College Street, ensconced safely under a glass shield, is an ancient tome. Leave leprechaun-embossed tea towels and Guinness-etched souvenirs behind, and enter Trinity Library.
Inside, a cool, lugubrious gloom houses the 1200-year-old Book of Kells. A hushed reverence descends as you approach the glass cabinet displaying two of four volumes. If your throat feels dry in awe, think of Brendan Behan who drank only on two occasions: when he was thirsty and when he was not.
Fabulous Latin calligraphy, coupled with vivid, medieval Celtic colours depicting symbols of the evangelists, gives the impression that the print is recent. Spend a few minutes scrutinising the extraordinary attention to detail, then bear in mind that this book – thought originally to have come from Scotland for safety – was found dumped unceremoniously in a field near Kells, west of Dublin. Pretty remarkable, then, that it has survived at all.
Books, books, books
Talking of books, there are over 200,000 of them in the Trinity Library. All first editions, they span five centuries and a multitude of languages – from Greek and Latin through Old Irish and Aramaic. The smell of ancient cracked vellum pervades the air as you enter, breathing a distant past beneath the barrel-vaulted ceiling.
Four-and-a-half miles of shelving in this Long Room must surely require a complex method of codifying the tomes, no? Alphabetical? Categorical? Well, actually, the books are arranged by size: big ones at the bottom, small ones at the top. In order for a student to locate a title, they must first know the dimensions!
Good old Ireland
Oh, and there is something familiar on the left-hand side. A twenty-nine string willow harp is displayed in a glass case. Only three feet high, it is the oldest surviving Irish harp, but why is it so recognisable? If you’ve ever held a pint of Guinness, you’ll know..
I’ll leave you with a piece of advice from old Mrs. Murphy: ‘ A woman who thinks the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach is aiming that little bit too high.’ Notice I’m saying nothing about apostrophes..